Take Tevye’s shtetl. Add magic. Now, cast yourself and your friends in the role of Sholom Aleichem, making up the plot as you go along.
That’s the basic premise of “Dream Apart,” a role-playing game created by writer Benjamin Rosenbaum. Unlike the original role-playing game “Dungeons and Dragons,” “Dream Apart” doesn’t use dice and is designed to be friendly to new players and newcomers to the genre.
Jewish fantasy, Rosenbaum believes, is different: “It’s never about leveling up to get better at violence. Or a final battle between good and evil. It’s about tricksters and survivors. Mediators and mystics. It’s about the struggle to be a moral agent in a complicated world.”
On the game’s Kickstarter page, a non-Jewish player described her hesitation at playing the game for the first time — she knew so little about Judaism! — and the happy results: “I became Gittel, the Matchmaker. I was a pietist, seeking atonement for the chaos that my family life had descended into. My husband was a sorcerer, who had all but left me as the spirit world started to demand more and more of his energy. Who even knew where he was sleeping most nights? My daughter was in love with a goy. The state of my family’s affairs was starting to call my competency as a matchmaker into question.”
Her conclusion when the game was over: “The whole session was great. It was so beautiful and so powerful.”
The game is being published as a paperback book together with another game that uses the same rules: “Dream Askew,” which takes place not in a shtetl but in a queer enclave enduring the collapse of civilization. You can find it on Kickstarter at http://kck.st/2Gi5lfh.